Aug 6, 2012

If you make your product interfaces obvious, everyone wins.

Key-less interfaces. This is where technology is going, and I love it. However, some people still don't get it and they still make horribly complex interfaces. The notion that a product is better if it has 100+ options is totally wrong, and the market its proving it. Make a simpler product, and you will destroy your competition.
  • My laundry machine has a speed-deal type control that I still don't know how to properly use after 2 years washing my clothes. I don't care either. It's fixed in one of the steps and that's what I've been using. Remove that thing and add one "start" button. I'm sold.

  • I bought a blender yesterday with 2 possible options: start and pulse. I paid $30+ bucks over other models with 20 non-sense buttons. I love it and I will gladly buy it over again next time. Do you know how much pain it removes from my life? I know how to use it without having to read any manual!

  • My iPhone has one button. Love it. My Galaxy Nexus has three. Why? I have to think every time before pressing one of them. I usually screw it by pressing the wrong one (I might be an idiot). I've never being confused with my iPhone, but I need to complain about my Android. Some phone makers re-order these buttons, so every phone could be different adding more confusion. I've also seen some models that make things worse by turning off the backlit making the buttons invisible to the user! You have to guess-press them to realize that you fucked it up and pressed the wrong one. Nice touch!

  • I used to hate those Windows keyboards with ~200 keys. Somebody thought that it was nice to add a key for every Windows pre-installed application on your hard drive. So you had a key for pulling up Notepad, one for IE, one for the calculator, and a huge painful bulky and confusing keyboard sitting on your desk. Not for me.

  • My former Honda Accord panel looked like a piano. You can easily get killed yourself trying to find the right button while driving. My new Audi A4 has 20 more features and uses less than half of the buttons. Needless to say how better it is and how much I like it.

  • Guess why I moved from Microsoft Office to Google Docs... Well, at least that's one of the reasons.
The list goes on and on.

Looking around I can find hundreds of examples where technology is getting simpler for users. Every button (option) counts and adds certain stress to the person that needs to use it. Complexity it's never welcomed and people recognize it by going more and more with the easiest product. I consider myself a pretty technical person, and nothing bugs me more than having to deal with a manual before using something. Make it simple and obvious and you'll save tons of paper!

I think that's the future. Key-less interfaces where products are easier to use and work without requiring so many configuration and input instructions. Look at Siri on iOS and the new Google Now on Jelly Bean. We are moving there very quickly.

And for you... please go ahead and rethink whatever is what you're doing. It probably can be simpler. It probably doesn't need so many options. Make us (and yourself) a favor and trim it down until you get rid of every "needed" instruction.

If you make it obvious, everyone wins.